Edinburgh Northern make the short journey to Arboretum Road this Saturday, taking on Inverleith RFC, in the first “El Botanico” of this season.
This is the authors favourite game in the league calendar, and hopefully Saturday’s fixture will make up for the one solitary fixture between these sides last year, due in principal to the bizarre “triple split” in East 2. It is with great satisfaction that players and fans of both sides can look forward to not only Saturday, but also a reverse fixture in January 2019.
In that game last year, played out on the very narrow Arboretum Road pitch, both sides performed to a particularly high standard in attack, although not particularly so in defence. A stag-do forced Northern to field a weakened side but they started brightly, with an early Hugh Vermont penalty nudging them ahead. A late Connor Forlow converted try in the first half gave Northern an advantage at the break, but the absence of substitutes soon told; Inverleith fired in the second half, particularly through their significantly large winger. Although Tom Horton and Luke Worthington grabbed late converted tries, Northern went down 34-24, the beginning of a 10 match losing streak.
There are warning signs here for Northern, who go into this fixture on the back of two wins, identical almost to the position they found themselves in last season. Last week’s physically grating victory at Liberton took its toll, but a determined performance by the 15 men left standing meant Northern did enough to get out of the southside of Edinburgh with a win. This has left them unbeaten and behind only Lismore and Dalkeith in third-place going into Saturday, both of whom picked up bonus point wins last weekend. Northern can boast about having the best defensive record in the division however.
As for our neighbours, they opened their season last weekend with a bruising 49-19 loss away at Dalkeith, refereed to a high degree of competency by Northerns very own Wilson Craig. Dalkeith started the better of the two sides, scoring two early tries through their centres before Inverleith came back into the game through two wide moves. Unfortunately, as the clock hit 40 Dalkeith scored again to take a 21-14 lead into the break. The second half proved beyond our neighbours, as Dalkeith ran in 5 converted tries, and although they gathered a consolation score, it wasn’t enough to get them a losing or try bonus.
All this leads to Saturday’s fixture hopefully being a bit of a barnstormer. Having shaken off the proverbial cobwebs, Inverleith should be well up for this fixture, and will be looking to kick-start their season with a home win. As for Northern, they should need no further encouragement to raise their game than “El Botanico”, and there’s a point to prove for the few surviving members of last season’s defeat.
Packing down for Northern is Kit Walker at tight-head, who makes his third consecutive appearance of the season. He’s joined at hooker by Tom Horton, who bagged his first try for the club in the same fixture last season, and the front-row is completed by the whopping figure of Kristian Anderson.
In the second-row nothing changes as Paul Holland partners Calum Harper in the second-row, both locks having played well in last week’s outing at Liberton.
Returning from holiday, vice-captain Jamie McCann replaces the injured Jeremy Dobrowsky at 8, whilst captain Dominic Harrison continues at 7. Completing the back-row is birthday boy and seasoned campaigner Rory Pounds.
In the backs, Max Hoani starts once more at scrum, and he’s joined at fly-half by Aaron Laurenson following his sojurn at inside-centre last week.
In the centres, Jamie Thompson partners new face Ali Baxter, who made a promising debut last week at Liberton. The back three is made up of the seemingly eternal Wilson Craig at 15, and Will French and John Macintyre complete the wing positions.
Andrew Suttle and Jason Thompson return from the holidays to provide cover for the pack and Chris McKenzie completes the substitutes.
ENRFC vs Inverleith: Craig, McIntyre, Baxter, Thompson, French, Laurenson, Hoani; Anderson, Horton, Walker, Harper, Holland, Pounds, McCann, Harrison ©. Subs: Suttle, Thompson, McKenzie